The Oscar (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Russell Rouse|
|Produced by||Clarence Greene|
|Screenplay by||Harlan Ellison
|Based on||the novel The Oscar
by Richard Sale
Jill St. John
|Narrated by||Tony Bennett|
|Music by||Percy Faith|
|Edited by||Chester Schaeffer|
|Distributed by||Embassy Pictures (US)
Paramount Pictures (Europe)
The Oscar is a 1966 American drama film written by Harlan Ellison, Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse and Richard Sale, directed by Rouse and starring Stephen Boyd, singer Tony Bennett (in his film debut), comedian Milton Berle (in a dramatic role), Elke Sommer, Ernest Borgnine, Jill St. John, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Cotten, Edie Adams, Peter Lawford, Broderick Crawford, Ed Begley, Walter Brennan and Jack Soo. Also appearing are Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, Merle Oberon, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra as themselves.
The film features an impressive cast and crew, including several real Academy Award winners: eight-time costume design winner Edith Head (who would also be nominated, but not win, for The Oscar); Best Actor winners Borgnine and Crawford; Best Supporting Actor winners Begley, Brennan (three wins), Sinatra and James Dunn, and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. Also in the cast were Oberon and Parker, who had been nominated for Oscars but did not win.
As movie star Frankie Fane (Boyd) is about to hear if he won a best acting Oscar, his friend Hymie Kelly (Bennett) reminisces about Fane's struggle to the top, beginning as a spieler for his stripper girlfriend Laurel (St. John). After moving to New York, Frankie dumps Laurel for a budding fashion designer, Kay Bergdahl (Sommer), which leads to a chance meeting with talent scout Sophie Cantaro (Parker). Sophie arranges for him to be signed with agent "Kappy" Kapstetter (Berle) and brings Frankie to Hollywood, where he quickly becomes a rising star.
At each turn, Fane is an unprincipled heel, using and hurting others and causing them to recoil from him. He impulsively persuades Kay to marry him in Tijuana, but treats her cruelly thereafter. Frankie buys expensive homes and cars while offending the studio chief, Regan, until his life goes into a tailspin when he suddenly becomes "box office poison." At his low ebb, he unexpectedly receives an Oscar nomination, which Kappy believes is the result of Fane's portrayal of a "man without morals," therefore portraying himself.
In order to ensure his victory, he secretly employs the services of a crooked private investigator (Borgnine), who leaks information that should influence voters to sympathize with Fane and support his Oscar candidacy. Fane doesn't care that the scandal smears the reputations of Kelly and Laurel as well. An enraged Kelly confronts him, telling how he married Laurel, who then died during an abortion while pregnant with a child fathered by Fane. And the private eye Yale also blackmails Fane, who must desperately turn to Yale's ex-wife (Adams) for help to keep his ruse from being exposed.
The moment of truth comes at the Academy Awards, as presenter Merle Oberon (playing herself) announces the winner. As she states the name "Frank," Fane rises instantaneously, prepared to bolt to the stage; she then immediately follows with "Sinatra." As Frank Sinatra moves towards the stage, Fane is left stunned and crestfallen, clapping his hands weakly, while everyone in the assemblage whom he has wronged enjoys the comeuppance for this wholly self-absorbed, unfeeling individual.
- Stephen Boyd as Frankie Fane
- Elke Sommer as Kay Bergdahl
- Milton Berle as Alfred 'Kappy' Kapstetter
- Eleanor Parker as Sophie Cantaro
- Joseph Cotten as Kenneth H. Regan
- Jill St. John as Laurel Scott
- Tony Bennett as Hymie Kelly
- Edie Adams as Trina Yale
- Ernest Borgnine as Barney Yale
- Ed Begley as Grobard
- Walter Brennan as Orrin C. Quentin
- Broderick Crawford as Sheriff
- James Dunn as Network Executive
- Peter Lawford as Steve Marks
- Jack Soo as Sam
- Jean Hale as Cheryl Barker
The Oscar made its network television debut on February 12, 1969, on ABC's Wednesday Night Movie. ABC moved the film up a half-hour, to 8:30 Eastern, due to cancelling the comedy show Turn-On after only one episode. TBS later included The Oscar in a film series called "Bad Movies We Love".
While the film is technically a drama, many consider it to be an unintentional comedy, with critics skewering the script and performances. (Ironically, one of the few things critics liked about The Oscar was a strong dramatic performance by comedian Milton Berle.) Others consider it most likely to be a burlesque, given the stature of the actors involved. Tony Bennett "won" a Golden Turkey Award in the "Worst Performance By a Popular Singer" category; Bennett never played another dramatic role on film. The Oscar also marked the near-endpoint of Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse's careers; they each made just one more feature afterwards.
- Best Art Direction (Hal Pereira, Arthur Lonergan, Robert R. Benton, James W. Payne); lost to Fantastic Voyage
- Best Costume Design (Edith Head, who also has a brief cameo); lost to A Man For All Seasons
- Levy, Emanuel (2003). All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-1452-6.
As a movie, The Oscar was the worst publicity that Hollywood could have devised for itself. Panned by all the critics, it was also a fiasco at the box office. "Obviously the community doesn't need enemies as long as it has itself," wrote The New York Times 's Bosley Crowther.
- "The Oscar – Review". TV Guide.
- Medved, Michael; Medved, Harry (1980). The Golden Turkey Awards. Putnam. ISBN 0-399-50463-X.
- "NY Times: The Oscar". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-27.